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Militia Group Leader Guilty Of Minnesota Mosque Pipe Bomb Attack

Michael Hari was found guilty on Wednesday of being the mastermind behind an attack on a Minnesota mosque.
Michael Hari was found guilty on Wednesday of being the mastermind behind an attack on a Minnesota mosque.

The leader of an anti-government white supremacist militia group and former sheriff's deputy has been convicted of hate crime charges after a pipe bomb attack on a Minnesota mosque in 2017.

Jurors found Michael Hari guilty on five counts, including damaging property because of its religious character, forcibly obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs, conspiracy to commit felonies with fire and explosives, using a destructive device in a crime of violence, and possessing an unregistered destructive device.

Hari and two other men — Joe Morris and Michael McWhorter — carried out an attack on the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., on Aug. 5, 2017, as several men gathered for morning prayer. According to Morris and McWhorter, who pleaded guilty to their roles in the bombing and testified against the 49-year-old, Hari was the mastermind behind the plot.

"Michael Hari's goal in bombing the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center was to spread hatred, instill fear, and threaten the constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion. This act of violence, driven by hatred and ignorance, shook our community," U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald said in a statement.

She added: "Today's guilty verdicts represent a condemnation of that hatred and uphold our fundamental right to live and worship free from the threat of violence and discrimination."

During the five-week trial, Morris and McWhorter alleged Hari coordinated the plan to rent a truck in Illinois which he drove to the Minnesota mosque. He then ordered the two men to throw a pipe bomb into the imam's main office as he waited in the truck. Morris, who described Hari as a father figure, testified that the older man claimed the mosque trained ISIS fighters and that the group was "taking orders from a CIA agent called 'Congo Joe' to harass 'untouchables,' such as Antifa and billionaire George Soros," the Star Tribune reported.

No one was injured in the explosion.

In interviews with federal agents following his arrest in 2018, McWhorter said the three were also behind the attempted bombing of a women's health clinic in Champaign, Ill., just three months after the Bloomington bombing.

In court, prosecutors argued Hari and the others formed an anti-government militia group called the White Rabbits. As its leader, Hari wrote a manifesto known as "The White Rabbit Handbook" and recorded a series of xenophobic YouTube videos under the handle "Illinois Patriot." In one post recorded days before his arrest in November 2018, "he claimed the FBI and local law enforcement were tormenting the central Illinois town," The Associated Press reported.

A 2018 indictment says that "the group obtained materials used to make explosives, provided weapons and uniforms to group members, and assigned ranks to its members."

U.S. Attorney John Docherty presented evidence suggesting that the three men planned to carry out a series of criminal jobs to fund their bigoted endeavors, including going on a trip to Cuba to capture the aunt of dead rapper Tupac Shakur, who is wanted by the FBI. They had planned to turn her in for a $1 million reward, accordingto the Tribune.

Hari, who once worked as a sheriff's deputy, has had numerous run-ins with the law. He was convicted and sentenced to 30 months probation for child abduction in 2006 after taking his 13- and 15-year-old daughters to Mexico and Belize, where he later confessed he lived as "an illegal alien for almost a year." He was apparently afraid he'd lose custody of the girls to his ex-wife.

In 2017 — the same year he bombed the mosque and the abortion clinic — Hari submitted a bid to win a federal contract to build President Trump's border wall.

In avideo about the project, which Hari called the "Great Western International Border Wall," a narrator proclaims that "the wall will be culturally significant ... a powerful architectural statement of the determination of the American people to defend their nation and its Anglo-Saxon heritage, Western culture and English language."

"The wall exists to protect the economic rights of the U.S. population and to protect our way of life from people who have different value systems," the narrator says.

A sentencing hearing for Hari has yet to be scheduled.

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Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.
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